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Shoppers Drug Mart reports Q1 results

BY Antoinette Alexander

TORONTO — Shoppers Drug Mart posted a 2.7% boost in first-quarter sales, driven by strong front-store sales gains that benefited from marketing campaigns, promotions and market share gains of the company’s core health, beauty and convenience categories.

Front-end same-store sales rose 4.4% during the quarter ended March 26. Sales at the front end were C$1.197 billion ($1.26 billion), up 6% compared with the year-ago period.

Pharmacy same-store sales decreased 0.4%. Prescription sales were C$1.15 billion ($1.21 billion), also a decrease of 0.4%, compared with the year-ago period. Continued growth in the number of prescriptions filled was offset by a reduction in average prescription value, the company stated. The decrease in average prescription value can be largely attributed to a reduction in generic prescription reimbursement rates, the result of recently implemented drug system reform initiatives in certain jurisdictions of Canada, combined with increasing generic prescription utilization rates.

First-quarter sales were C$2.35 billion ($2.48 billion), up 2.7%, compared with the year-ago period. Net earnings were C$118 million ($124 million), or 54 Canadian cents per share, compared with C$114 million (US$120 million), or 52 Canadian cents per share, last year.

"We are pleased with our performance in the first quarter of 2011. This is a particularly solid result considering that we are in the midst of working through a difficult period of transition as we adjust our business and service model in response to government reform initiatives and the resultant funding and reimbursement pressures on our pharmacy business," stated David Williams, director and interim president and CEO.

"Together with our associate owners and their teams at store level, we remain well-positioned to meet the challenges and capitalize on the opportunities ahead of us without ever compromising on our commitment to excellence in patient care and customer service," Williams added.

The company also announced several changes to its board of directors, including the appointment of a new board chair. Effective May 1, Holger Kluge will succeed Williams as the nonexecutive chairman of the board. Kluge, an independent director who joined the board in February 2006, has served as chair of the audit committee since May 2006.

Williams, an independent director who joined the board in September 2003 and has served as the nonexecutive chair since February 2007, will continue to serve as a director and has been appointed to the Nominating and Governance Committee.

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Poll: Older U.S. adults tend to make health-conscious decisions when purchasing food, beverages

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — Most U.S. adults are health-conscious when it comes to purchasing food and beverages, and many tend to purchase healthier products as they age, according to a new Harris poll.

Among 2,379 adults surveyed online between March 7 and 14 by Harris Interactive, at least three-quarters of all U.S. adults placed importance on fresh (89%), fiber (81%), whole grains (81%), fat content (80%), portion size (79%), calories (77%) and saturated fat (76%) when making food and beverage purchases. Specialized nutritional items, however, are rated much lower, with 33% and 20% rating gluten and vegan, respectively, as important.

The poll also found that "matures," consumers ages 66 years and older, are the most likely of all generations to pay close attention to nutritional facts and translate their health consciousness into behavior, likely due to the fact that they need to follow a diet with specific restrictions. More than three-quarters of "matures" (76%) have a diet restriction, compared with 58% of baby boomers (ages 47 to 65 years), 50% of generation Xers (ages 35 to 46 years) and 51% of echo boomers (ages 18 to 34 years). What’s more, "matures" also are more likely to curb their salt or sugar intake than any other generational group.

The latest poll may indicate that nutritional initiatives in recent years likely have boosted health-conscious decisions when it comes to eating habits, although translating awareness into behavior should continue to be reinforced.

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Consumer confidence up despite rising gas prices

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK — Consumer confidence recovered somewhat in April, though the impact of rising gasoline prices still is evident, according to data released Tuesday by the Conference Board.

The confidence index hit 65.4 in April, from an upwardly revised 63.8 in March. The reading still is below the 72.0 mark of February.

“Consumers’ short-term outlook improved slightly, suggesting that the uncertainty expressed last month is easing,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board’s consumer research center. “Although confidence remains weak, consumers’ assessment of current conditions gained ground for the seventh straight month, a sign that the economic recovery continues.”

While expectations among consumers that business conditions will improve over the next six months declined to 18.8% from 20.8%, those anticipating business conditions to worsen decreased to 14.2% from 15.5%.

Consumers were mixed about labor market outlook for the next six months. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead declined to 17.5% from 19.6%, while those anticipating fewer jobs declined to 19% from 20.5%.

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